Wednesday, October 04, 2006

MICHIGAN NEWS: Outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease Hits Deer

By Howard Meyerson
Grand Rapids Press Outdoors Editor

SAUGATUCK -- Dave Engel's gut told him something was wrong when he found four dead deer along a half-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River in August.

A call to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources cued him to the fact that 12 others had been reported upstream.

"We knew instantly that something was wrong," said Engel, the manager of the Pottawatomie Gun Club located along the river between Saugatuck and Richmond.

The 120-year-old private waterfowl hunting club has nearly 2 miles of riverfront on its property. The deer were found floating or along the bank.

Engel didn't anticipate finding 17 more in subsequent weeks, the predictable result of a often fatal viral disease in deer known as epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD.

The infectious disease is carried by a tiny flying midge known as a no-see-um. State officials confirmed the presence of the disease in two deer Tuesday. Officials say they have received 50 reports of dead deer in Manlius and Saugatuck townships along the Rabbit and Kalamazoo rivers.

"They (DNR biologists) had a suspicion that it was EHD before this, but no clinical evidence," said Maria Albright, a wildlife staffer with the Allegan State Game Area.

Albright handled many of the calls about dead deer. Most had decomposed. They were no longer good specimens for the lab. But that changed Sept. 18 when DNR wildlife managers got a call about a deer that someone saw die.

"We were able to get to that deer within a half hour of it dying," Albright said. "It went to the lab the next day and that nailed it." It took two weeks to isolate the EHD virus and make sure it was not a close relative known as bluetongue.

Wildlife officials said the deer's presence along the river fit a classic pattern. The deer were hot with fever and went to the water's edge to drink or lie in it and cool down. Some were simply not strong enough to get up and leave. They died in place or got swept down stream.

"I've witnessed three different deer come to the water, lay down and not get back up," Engel said. "I've found 21 so far. All were along the river. It's a gruesome sight. Every logjam has a deer in it."

EHD causes internal bleeding from different organs and the deer go into shock. The symptoms include a loss of appetite, fear of humans, lack of strength and bleeding.
Studies show 75 percent of the infected deer die within three days of being bitten.

"It's fast and it's a localized event," said John Lerg, a wildlife biologist with the DNR Plainwell office. "We haven't fully mapped the location of all the carcasses, but we expect this will be over with the first frost."

Cold conditions kill the midges that carry the disease. It is not spread from one deer to another, according to Lerg.

Hunters also need not be concerned. Humans are not susceptible to the disease. Standard precautions, however are warranted. Do not shoot or eat a sick deer and wear protective gloves when processing it. The disease is not expected to spread beyond the area.

EHD is common in the U.S. and Canada, but outbreaks do not occur regularly. Michigan had an outbreak in the 1955 in 10 counties, forming a band from Muskegon to Shiawassee, and in 1974 in Gratiot, Iosco, Mecosta, Ingham and Arenac counties. In each case, 100 dead deer were reported.

Monday, October 02, 2006

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Deer Pose Problems at Historic Park

Members of several Pennsylvania communities plan to meet at Valley Forge National Historical Park to discuss the area's growing deer problems.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said the deer population in the area has grown to the point that traffic accidents and garden damage are becoming commonplace, and the meeting would debate whether killing the deer is a necessary evil.

"It's the most difficult issue that our community has ever faced," said Bucks County resident Debbie Plotnick. "Most suburban communities love deer ... People don't realize how hard this is."

At the meeting next month, a proposal allowing limited bow hunting of deer in certain areas is set to be proposed and would likely meet with strong opposition by those who say the deer should be caught and released elsewhere, the Inquirer said.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission will hold a hearing Monday to attempt to legalize the use of bait in deer hunting, and the proposition will go to a vote Tuesday, said the Inquirer.